Theater -- Tom Titus

What's new? Well, 2002 for one thing. And a generous handful of local

stage productions preparing to hit the boards in the early months of the

new year.

First out of the blocks, as usual, is South Coast Repertory, reviving

Moliere's "School for Wives" next weekend. The professional troupe and

Moliere have enjoyed a close relationship over the 37 years SCR has

called our backyard home, beginning with its very first production,

"Tartuffe."

UC Irvine delves into the world of fantasy on Jan. 24 with Conte Carlo

Gozzi's fairy tale "The Love of Three Oranges," an 18th century piece of

commedia dell'arte wizardry. This show, which will run through Feb. 2,

will be staged in the Winifred Smith Hall on the UCI campus.

Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors" hits the board of Orange Coast

College's Drama Lab Studio on Jan. 24 for a two-weekend engagement. It's

the college's annual stab at the Bard of Avon, this time in a highly

comic vein with this tale of double mistaken identity.

"Driving Miss Daisy," which enjoyed an estimable production at the

Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse a few seasons ago, turns up Jan. 25 at the

Newport Theatre Arts Center. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama will run

for five weekends.

South Coast Repertory kicks off its last year of public productions on

the Second Stage -- they'll move to the new Judie Argyros Stage in the

fall -- with the world premiere of "Making It" by Joe Hortua. Careers and

relationships in bustling Manhattan form the theme for this new play.

Several plays have their genesis in "Hamlet," notably "Rosencrantz and

Guildenstern are Dead." UCI will present another, "Fortanbras Gets

Drunk," from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9 in the university's Studio Theater. It's a

comedy based on the events in "Hamlet," but centered on the new ruler's

inventive scheme for (literally) keeping his head.

Screen star Ann-Margret arrives in Costa Mesa on Feb. 5, heading the

revival of the musical "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." This comic

tribute to a now-eliminated institution of the Lone Star state will be in

town only through Feb. 10.

The hills --- or at least the Lab Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa --- will be

alive with "The Sound of Music" from Feb. 8 through March 3 at the

Trilogy Playhouse. This popular Rodgers and Hammerstein musical

inaugurates the Trilogy's third season in our backyard after five

formative years in South County.

"Metropolitan Operas," a collection of short plays by Joseph Pintauro,

will bring OCC back into action Feb. 9. These sketches will be presented

by the college's student-run Repertory Theatre Company in the Drama Lab

Studio.

The industrious UCI drama department returns to the spotlight Feb. 28

with "Promenade," an Obie-winning, off-Broadway hit musical mixing

farcical comedy with political satire. It plays through March 9.

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" may be an oldie, but

the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical has seen a lot of local action

lately. Its latest appearance will be March 1-3 only at the Irvine

Barclay Theatre as a special production of Costa Mesa's Vanguard

University.

And, no, we haven't forgotten the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse, which is

going dark for the first two months of 2002. Having failed to secure the

rights for "Steel Magnolias" last fall, the theater has made room in its

March schedule to fit the Robert Harling seriocomedy into the March 16 to

April 7 slot that was originally earmarked for a revival of "Charley's

Aunt."

These are the first entries in what promises to be an industrious year

of local theater in 2002.

* TOM TITUS writes about and reviews local theater for the Daily

Pilot. His stories appear Thursdays and Saturdays.

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